Saturday, December 31, 2005

Angel Heart (1987)

Wow it totally looks like the cover of the soundtrack huh? Sadly it is...

Mystery Noir Thriller (USA, Canada, UK)

Starring: Robert De Niro (Goodfellas; Godsend), Mickey Rourke (Sin City; Barfly)

Directed By: Alan Parker (Midnight Express; Angela's Ashes)

Overview: A private detective is hired by a strange man to find a missing Crooner named Johnny Favorite. He quickly finds himself in over his head.

Acting: You know, I love De Niro, and hey lookit that, Mickey Rourke is in this too. Both those actors are great. Was it the setting or the costumes (those nails maybe?) that made me like this less than I had hoped? Maybe the director, who also did Pink Floyd The Wall and Mississippi Burning? I don't know. Something about it just didn't click. Let's just say 'fine'.
Rating: 7

Cinematography: The fight scenes were really realistic. There was a lot of wild flailing attacks quickly followed by running away. That added a nice realism. There were also the occasional gory moments too which is always nice, but somehow I found nothing spectacular about any of the scenes that would make me think this was particularly innovative. I found it merely adequate in its entertainment value.
Rating: 7

Script: The writing was decent, while still not having any of the grainy edge one can find in Bogart Film Noir or Mickey Rourke's insanely great role in Sin City. Mickey and De Niro did fine with what they had, but when it came down to delivering the lines, they didn't have any Oomph.
Rating: 7

Plot: The story is pretty cool, however. It's my kind of tale, and though it builds too slowly (the Thriller's great fault), the conclusion is pretty great. I'll bump it up a notch, though you know, it's a touch predictable.
Rating: 8

Mood: Not Film Noir enough for me, too much jazz for my liking (though it works) and the whole Louis slant was just a touch lame. Maybe this movie was just too dated overall, but I found everything that was 'mood-setting' to be on the tacky side. Nothing better than passably fine.
Rating: 7

You know what I hate? When writers ruin films by coming up with witty play on word names, like Louis Cypher. How STUPID do you think I am?!

Overall Rating: 72% (Angel's A Little Soulless)

Aftertaste: This has been on my 'get around to seeing' list for about oh, eight years now. These things happen I guess. Now that I'm on a major movie kick this holiday season, I piled it in with the other 10 or so titles. Deep down I knew it wouldn't be anything great. Is this a must see? No. Is this good for people who are into voodoo and that sort of thing? Sure, you'll like it fine, but you'd do better with a penchant for Film Noir with a jazzy kick.

Friday, December 30, 2005

The Birth Of A Nation (1915)

Um.. not thatI'm any kind of general or anything, but isn't standing there like that in a firefight kind of a stupid thing to do?

Genre: Silent Drama Romance War Western

Starring: Lillian Gish (Intolerance; Broken Blossoms), Henry B. Walthall (London After Midnight)

Directed By: D.W. Griffith (Way Down East; Orphans Of The Storm)

Overview: One of the most controversial films ever made, this is the story of the Civil War, the assassination of Lincoln and especially the 'Reconciliation' (or how the south dealt with being one nation with Negroes as free men). Based on the pro-Ku Klux Klan book The Clansman.

Acting: The thing I find weird about silent film is all the talking. Don't they know we can't hear them? As for the actual acting, I must say, the silent era has this thing about overhamming it hardcore. I very much enjoyed the role of the 'Little Colonel', who was my favorite, so he bumps it up a notch all by his lonesome.
Rating: 5

Cinematography: There were some great sets and that epic battle scene was terrific. Vignetting and different tinting played a part in boosting the enjoyment, but I could not get over the fact that often scenes went on and on for no reason, mostly just to watch people talk, and no explanatory dialogue most of the time.
Rating: 6

Script: The script was next to non-existent. The fact that 80% of the text up on the screen was simply an explanation of the events about to take place ("The sadness of love lost", or "The assassination of Lincoln") did not help to let us truly know what was going on in the heads of the characters. What's worse is that they kept talking!
Rating: 5

Plot: The whole first half is the onset of the Civil War, and the war itself leading up to the Assassination of President Lincoln. This is really the 'good' part of the movie. The second half of the movie is 'Reconciliation', when the now free Negroes began to be a 'thorn' in the side of whites and the Ku Klux Klan comes and saves the day from the 'power-hungry and harassing' blacks. No it's not convoluted, it's 100% pro-Klan. Hey guess what I think of that? Also, it's just too long. It really could have been cut down for time and interest, easily.
Rating: 4

Mood: I guess I'll throw in "white folk painted like Negroes" under the negative of this category. It was weird trying to figure out who was black, white or mulatto for the longest time. As for the first half of the movie, with all the costumes and settings and that epic battle scene, that was great. They did some authentic reconstructions of actual places too. That's good. Oh right, down 2 points for the blatant racism.
Rating: 5

There is so, so so much wrong with this picture, this whole moving picture in fact...

Overall Rating: 50% (Give Birth A Wide Berth)

Aftertaste:190 minutes. It's an epic yes, and it could certainly have been shortened. Honestly though, it's about the early days of America, and there was a lot of history there. Now looking at the whole Reconciliation bit was like watching a whole other movie... A bad 'ought to be burned' movie. Imagine this: In Los Angeles on February 4, 1915, 20 guys on horses in Full KKK Regalia advertising the film. True story. Astounding isn't it? I preferred the 'Making of' more than the actual movie, because it was so historically enlightening. Sixth down from my 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list. Only see this if you need to, like I did.

Metropolis (1927)

Shizat that's some expressionistic awesomeness!

Silent Action Drama Romance Sci-Fi Thriller (Germany)

Starring: Alfred Abel (Hitchcock's Mary; Murnau's The Grand Duke's Finances) Brigitte Helm

Directed By: Fritz Lang (M; Hangmen Also Die)

Overview: A wondrous utopia exists, built by men worked to the bone. When a new robot is built, capable of replacing them all, the Lord Of Metropolis conceives a sinister plot.

Acting: The acting ranged from deep and terrifying to base and farcical within seconds of one another. The overzealous melodrama detracted from what could have been more subtle realism. I don't think the acting was a metaphor to illustrate how exaggerated everything is, I think it was just classic overhamming.
Rating: 6

Cinematography: The vignetting was well done and the shadow effects added fear to the film. The camera work is good on it's own merit, not to mention brilliant for its era. There were terrific special effects, like the Robot transforming ray and the superimpositions. The professionalism of this is astounding, and though I could have used a bit more 'rule of thirds', I loved it.
Rating: 8

Script: The delivery was excellent. "Less is more" is the key to this one. We are clearly shown what's going on, and any instant where there was a question as to the continuity, there was a happy little dialogue box to explain the plot. Nothing spectacular, but effective.
Rating: 7

Plot: Amazing story. Yes, it ended too happy, but the story itself is clearly a well thought-out, nice full vision. Want proof? It was a flop in theaters, almost put the company out of business. Movies ahead of their time always do poorly. The story is solid and haunting while still moving on and remaining exciting, especially the second half, with the revolt and the drama.
Rating: 8

Mood: Without a doubt, one of the most amazing settings and concepts in any film ever made. The expanses of blackness (more paranoia-inducing than any closed-in room) are so vast that everyone seems like a cog in this sinister machine. The happy ending interfered with the overall bleak vision that would have made more logical sense, but Wow.
Rating: 9

Dude, there's totally robots in this. No think about it! 1927 genius!

Overall Rating: 76% (A Spectacle Of The Modern Age)

Aftertaste:The best anecdote I know about this film is that it's Hitler's favorite movie. When he came to power, he commissioned Lang to be 'Germany's Director', because Hitler loved the man's forward-thinking vision. Lang, aghast and terrified that Hitler had completely missed the point was on a plane the next day to America, fleeing Germany and the man who ruled there. What a great story. Can you tell I liked it better than the rating I gave it?
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die: Number Five, and my favorite so far.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Cool Hand Luke (1967)

"I likes me a good box if you get my drift, boy!"
Genre: Drama

Starring: Paul Newman (Torn Curtain; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), George Kennedy (The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear; Airport 1975)

Directed By: Stuart Rosenberg (The Amityviller Horror; "Naked City")

Overview: A man without a plan, Luke winds up in a chain-gang, living his life like he always did, going against the grain.

Acting: It's insane how everyone is in this. Besides Newman and Kennedy, there's even a young Dennis Hopper. It's like everyone knew this would be a movie for the ages so they went and booked everyone who was going to be important for the next 20 years. The cast was great, but I still think George Kennedy's direction was a little overzealous, turning from tough guy to patsy, exactly like the two dogs from those Disney cartoons, "Eh Boss? Huh? Huh? We'll lick 'em good, Eh Boss?" Yeah, no.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: The quality of this film was a little blurry. I should have seen something remastered I suppose. The panoramic scenes, the costumes, the jail, the whole way this was captured was pleasant and professional. By now I think you know what that means.
Rating: 7

Script: "What we have here, is a failure to communicate." Yep, the classic line, it's from this one, it turns out. There's some good quotes an I was pleased that he sank the entire 'Plastic Jesus' song. I quite liked it. I must say that this was probably the best thing of the film. The way it was told was definitely solid.
Rating: 8

Plot: Two hours and six minutes of characterization. I know it's a classic, I know it's good to many, but you can say the same in less time and more effectively too. As a story it's full of human emotion and endurance, but you tend to forget that this Cool Cat Luke... plunked himself in his own predicament, never changing for nobody. I couldn't feel all that much pity for this guy. Sorry.
Rating: 6

Mood: The themes, for me changed constantly. I read that this was about a guy going against society's grain. Inspiring everyone in such acts as egg-eating contests and road-tarring races doesn't seem like he's doing anything different from anyone else. He's just living life trying to be accepted. Moreso, he climbed to the top of his heap. The theme they tried to get across to me was lost in the actions of the man. The music was awesome, the whole mood of the chain-gang too. Setting and score is one thing, but the heart of the film just wasn't there.
Rating: 6

"Yeah Georgie? Us prizin bitchiz gots to stick together, right Georgie?"

Overall Rating: 70% ("He Had Nothin'!")

Aftertaste: The fourth film seen from the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list, this was one of those films on my own list ages ago. Someone recommended it to me on my Blog recently and I decided to yes, fine, go ahead and see Newman (whom I love) in action. All I can say about this, sadly, is "seen it". I didn't think it was all that special at all.

Great Train Robbery, The (1903)

Poster marketing, over 100 years old, and this is pretty sweet indeed.

Genre: Silent Action Crime Western Short

Starring: A.C. Abadie, Gilbert M. "Bronco Billy" Anderson (Bronco Billy's Oath; The Dead Man's Claim)

Directed By: Edwin S. Porter (Faust; The 'Teddy' Bears)

Overview: The 12 minute classic short story of four bandits who rob a train and try to make a getaway.

Acting: The "Bronco Billy" actor went on to make something like 100 Western movies. The shots were all too wide to make any fear of the victims or intimidation of the bandits as effective as they could have been. I mean, they can only flail their arms so much and remain effective in their roles. The fight scene choreography wasn't the best either, but we did have a good sense of urgency.
Rating: 6

Cinematography: The angles varied enough, but I'd say the director really needed a few more up close shots of the actor's faces. The hand painted explosions and dresses were a nice little touch. This was a pretty exciting film, but not because of the way it was captured.
Rating: 5

Script: No signs in the windows, no pause for a blurb as someone speaks, just a title. There was no script at all. Instead I'll rate the storytelling / narrative ability in the silent medium. Did I understand what they were getting at? In the first scene I wasn't aware that the telegraph guy was actually calling for the train to make a unscheduled stop. How could I possibly without having read about it? If they had shot it better, maybe. All the other scenes, though, had a pretty effective pantomime, simple as the story was.
Rating: 6

Plot: This is, debatably, the first Western ever made. Neat eh? Apparently this became such a popular short film that scores of imitations followed shortly thereafter. As stories go, it's basic, but elaborate. You can really tell that there isn't much filler, that the necessary elements are all there, and to think that they shoot at a man's feet to force him to dance! How cliche is that? Oh right, it's never been done before. Sorry Goodfellas, they did it first.
Rating: 7

Mood: The mood was intense admittedly. That last shot, the up close in your face gunshot added to the look and feel, but there were some moments that I just couldn't quite get into. Yes, it was set in the West. After that, it's fine, I guess. Silent film piano tunes really fit the silent movie, turns out.
Rating: 7

Much as it was when people got out of the way of the train when seeing it in one of the first moving pictures, so too were producers able to hold mass hold ups in theaters...

Overall Rating: 62% (Robbery, Check. Great? Not So Much.)

Aftertaste: The third film seen after getting 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, this was one of those shorts that you just have to get around to seeing if you're serious about this art form. Yes, it's important, it's a trend setter, but like GoBots, this was just setting the stage for better things like Transformers. Glad I saw it? Definitely. Glad it was short? Maybe just a little.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Trip To The Moon (1902)

Super-awesome classic awesomeness, right in yer eye!

Genre: Silent Sci-Fi Adventure Fantasy Short (France)

Starring: Victor André, Bleuette Bernon

Directed By: George Méliès (The Magic Of Méliès; The Hallucinations of Baron Munchausen)

Overview: A group of scientists plan a trip to the moon, and build a giant cannon to carry the explorers to that new frontier.

Acting: The overzealous and melodramatic style must be taken with a grain of salt. Remember at this stage there was only theater acting, and given the quality of the recording medium, I'm sure that exaggeration was a necessary element. More than anything the acting adds to the feel of the thing, but don't tell me these people are expertly trained and directed. I mean the head scientist's hat falls off and they don't even reshoot.
Rating: 6

Cinematography: Have you ever seen a more classic image than the one above? No, you couldn't possibly have. You may have seen something with more of a Classic quality like Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind, but this is over a century old. Film is now antiquity, and nothing will ever be more representative of its genre than this, not to me anyways. Man, is this ever original! The whole thing, all 14 minutes of it, was spectacular. I loved those aliens and their landscape!
Rating: 9

Script: The terribly accented narration, added much later (I'd bet fifty years later at least) did admittedly distract. I wished they'd left it out, but there were a few explanations I would not otherwise have figured out, like the seven angry star people. If there had not been any speaking at all, I have no idea what I'd have written here :P
Rating: 5

Plot: Without joking, I really feel that their reaction to what they find when they get to the moon is a comical yet frightening social commentary. To think that technology has already taken us this far in progress and a 1902 film gives us perspective on the inherent and irrational fear that lives in our human nature. Seriously, this film is more than a neat little story. It actually opens your eyes a little bit.
Rating: 8

Mood: This is the first Sci-Fi story ever recorded, and it's one of the first non-fiction stories ever captured too. Think of that. It's mindblowing. Now I'll do my best to ignore all that and judge it on its own merit. For the moon, the rocket, the sets, the costumes and everything else that makes this look fantastical, it's seriously tops. Those girls add a nice touch of the era for perspective, too.
Rating: 9

In the early days of space travel, explorers made exclusively use of the 'Space Condom'.

Overall Rating: 74% (One Hell Of A Trip Indeed)

Aftertaste: OK, ok, so I was wigging out there for a moment, thinking that I'd never see this short. You know, if this guy had any idea that his image of the moon with a rocket in his eye would be such an icon of originality and frankly, the birth of an entire art medium, would he have changed the film? Am I glad I saw this? What do you think? It's like seeing Walt Disney's first Mickey cel, or hearing His Master's Voice on a phonograph. You know what else? This is genuinely awesome material. I wish I'd saved it for guests. This is definitely worth owning, not to mention worth seeing.
on my 'seen' list from 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

The Movies Begin Volume IV: The Magic Of Méliès (1904 - 1908)

There's magic and then there's creepy, dude...
Genre: Silent Shorts (France)
Starring: George Méliès

Directed By: George Méliès (The Hallucinations of Baron Munchausen)

Overview: This is a series of 14 short films by a director who has made over 500 in his 18 year career, from 1896 to 1914.

Acting: The melodramatic acting of talents ranging from the director himself (who had a history of theater and magic performances) to dancing girls and the common 'running around' extras does have it's place for what it is. I still think it's a little outdated, given that even this director changed his style from farce and magic (which this is a collection of) to more serious films. Not too deep.
Rating: 5

Cinematography: The thing about this is that it was cutting edge at the time, and there was even a hand-painted short. With a background in magic, it's quite obvious that his dissolve effects and superimpositions were used to make the unreal seem real. For that, and with a grain of salt, this falls under the 'good' category. He was a cinematic genius, though I can't say I appreciate him like I should.
Rating: 7

Script: The silent film is going to be a hard one to rate, but there was one short that had someone talking as a narrator, added after the fact. Though that hyper-Frenchman speaking English with a heavy 'haccent' was distracting and completely unnecessary, there were two lines that he spoke that explained what was going on. I just wish it had been taken out altogether. Also, sometimes silent films have words on the screen to explain dialogue, and hence the story. This one didn't, so we were a little more lost than we should have been. Disappointing.
Rating: 3

Plot: The first few stories were simply magic shows, and instead of genuine magic being performed, the director chose to edit the film to pull off his tricks. Cinematographically good, but prestidigitorially lazy. Those were plotless and so where most other shorts. There were a couple with a story, but I would certainly not say that they were good.
Rating: 3

Mood: Trouble In The Kitchen, a short with imps causing a ruckus was my favorite, with all the running in one door and popping out another. This one short made me feel that I was seeing the origins of that comic Vaudvillian style, still used a century (a century!) later in "Scooby-Doo" and "Animaniacs". That bumped it up a bit for sure, but the superimposing effects used over and over made me think not that each film was too like the other, but that the people who chose to compile this on one collection should have been more versatile.
Rating: 5

"Scuse please! Can we get our skin and organs back? Hello magic man? HELLOO!!"

Overall Rating: 46% (Too much Magic, Not Enough Substance)

Aftertaste: Ultimately, I found this to be utterly disappointing. All I wanted to see was the 14 minute short film from 1902 named a Trip To The Moon, which I'm sure you've heard of, directed by this man, and it was not even on the tape that I rented, even though there was a picture of the famous shot of the moon with a rocket in his eye right on the box. What worries me most is that I'll have no way of finding the actual short in question. Damnit.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Somnambulist (noun) : 1.) One who enjoys some of what Nambla has to offer.
Genre: Experimental Silent Horror Thriller Drama (Germany)
Starring: Werner Krauss (Tartuffe, Waxworks), Conrad Veidt (The Man Who Laughs, Casablanca)

Directed By: Robert Wiene

Overview: Dr. Caligari wows crowds as he commands a somnambulist in a town where strange murders are taking place.

Acting: The melodrama is ripe, and in this, it's perfectly appropriate. Without the make up, this would not have had the effect that it had, as it added the dark lines that enhanced the exaggerated movements of the faces of our players. The doctor was haunting, the somnambulist was creepy and the madmen in the asylum were pretty damn convincing. I liked it.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: The constant use of vignetting was a nice effect. Director Fritz Lang (M, Metropolis) helped a little with this too, which I'm pleased to hear. This German Expressionist film was all about strange angles and exaggerated settings. The scenes' surrealist backgrounds were intentionally fake and odd. For thinking outside of the box in such a major way, high praise. Truly original.
Rating: 8

Script: This had a good bunch of pauses for dialogue boxes and explanatory narrative. I've recently discovered that silent films often don't have enough of those, or the timing is too long or too short. I enjoyed that even the words were in a strange font with sharp angled backgrounds. I got the story, and I liked it, though those pauses could have been shorter in length.
Rating: 7

Plot: The story, though predictable has a nice little twist that is really unpredictable and so original that it's been used in more modern classics. To mention them would ruin the ending for you, so I won't, in hoped that you go out of your way to see this. Though sometimes there were unnecessary moments quite obviously used to fill time, overall a pretty cool story, seriously.
Rating: 7

Mood: This was an experiment in Expressionism. Usually this was reserved strictly for paintings, sculpture and that medium. The balls it took to go ahead and make a film this way has let it survived the test of time. I can't say that the whole thing had me glued, but the look was distinct, artistic, haunting and unique. Pretty cool if you ask me. The theme of madness was really well maintained throughout.
Rating: 8

Somnambulist (noun) : 2.) A great defense for killing your mother in law.

Overall Rating: 76% (Das Kabinett Thinks Outside The Box)

Aftertaste: The first in a long series of recommendations from 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, this was one of those films that will fall under the 'Important' category, rather than the 'Good'. It's a little dated, but the Avant-Garde aspect of this thing is pretty cool. Though I liked it, I just wish there had been more story and less filler.

A Detour Through My Film-loving Mind (December 2005)

If you haven't heard of this book, you won't have been alone, because until recently I hadn't heard of it myself. I went into the one of the Conglomerates of Evil Inc., Chapters, and looked around, just browsing. My guest and I ended up in the movie section looking at such things as illustrated diaries of the making of Apocalypse Now and a steel covered making of Full Metal Jacket. These film histories, though neat to browse, aren't ever anything I would ever want.

Then I saw this.

I looked through this book for about 40 seconds before I decided I had to have it. I took down the ISBN number and the publisher, called my local indy bookstore and ordered it for Christmas, from Mommy. There really wasn't anything else on my list this year and this book, 3 days after getting it has created a new paradigm in my approach to 'the repertoire', and I'm even more into film than I used to be, much to the dismay of my friends, I'll bet. It's really great to know that I have a bit of help in seeing films I didn't know were Classics. It's great to have help with films I've never even HEARD of. Better still, having a tome (it's HUGE) to use when presenting a film to reluctant viewers adds a nice weight to my argument.

I just thought I would let you know in advance why your host to the Vituperatem is going through all these old silent films and modern classics.

After long and hard contemplation about how to let you all know that a movie I just watched comes from this book, I've decided that rather than put these in it's own little highlighted text, I'll simply let you know at the beginning of my Aftertaste section that it's a suggested viewing.

Anyways, have yourself a wonderful Holiday Season and catch up on all the little things you wanted to do months ago!

I know I will.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

1984 (1984)

"Hey you, in the blue! Stop thinking like that!"

Genre: Sci-Fi Drama (UK)

Starring: John Hurt (The Proposition; Dead Man), Richard Burton (Equus; Where Eagles Dare)

Directed By: Michael Radford (The Merchant of Venice; Il Postino)

Overview: In a world oppressed by the tyranny of the state, one man rebels within his mind. In a world where Big Brother is always watching, Thought-Crime is a serious matter.

Acting: The roles of John Hurt, Burton, Hamilton and others was honestly spectacular. There's so many heavy Oscar moments in this film that I loved how everyone handled their role. This director also did the recent Merchant of Venice that I go on and on about in one of my Top 5 lists. Radford rocks.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: The effects of the cameras are claustrophobic, they certainly add to the overall feel of the film, with such moments as the Two-Minute Hate, Winston's story about the gross hooker, that intense green wide-open hillside. This is all imagery, and the symbolism really gets through to you. Nice, real nice.
Rating: 8

Script: The writing in this is pretty good, if you've read the book. All the right quotes are there, everything important is said, but so much nuance is left as an unknown to the degree that I think this was intended for readers of the original. That's sad. Movies shouldn't hint at a book's content, they should be their own thing.
Rating: 7

Plot: The story suffers. When I first saw this, I hadn't read the book, being a young 15 or so year old kid. I read it, loved it and watched it again, figuring everything out as I watched, thinking, "Oh! I see what they did there!" For the simple reason that this makes little sense without having read it, I'll drop it a few. Let me tell you though, it's a nice vision of Orwell's if you DO know the story, so read it then watch, otherwise Buyer Beware.
Rating: 7

Mood: The bleak and bombed out landscape was only made bleaker by the constant haze of the massive televisions, even sitting there in the streets like billboards, constantly droning statistics. Did they capture the essence of this, my favorite book ever written, in such a way as I could appreciate? What do you think?
Rating: 10

"Pawn takes Queen... 2+2= Ω ... Bacon is the enemy..."

Overall Rating: 82% (Orwell, Well, Well!)

Aftertaste: Such memorabilia of those good old days when I was young and naive, learning about how much society is out to take my soul unless I didn't do anything about it. My favorite quote from the book: "Orthodoxy is Unconsciousness". Hey, if you show this to your kids quick enough, they may just do something about fixing the world we live in, just a little. Make 'em read it first, or they'll be lost.

Capote (2005)

"unh...yeees. I am... how you say... the shiiiit."

Genre: Crime Drama

Starring: Philip Seymore Hoffman (Boogie Nights; Happiness), Catherine Keener (40 Year Old Virgin; The Interpreter)

Directed By: Bennett Miller

Overview: This is the story of Truman Capote's in-depth research into the lives of the murderers of that small Kansas town he wrote about in his hit non-fiction novel, In Cold Blood.

Acting: I was all about Philip Seymore Hoffman way back during Happiness. Since then such roles as those in Magnolia, Owning Mahoney and especially Love Liza help take away the surprise that this is Hollywood's hot, new actor on the scene. We all know he's getting a star one day. The rest do great too. It's a nice surprise getting a little know actor to play Perry Smith. Too many big names can spoil the stew.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: The look, though professional and pretty with a nice little panoramic here and there was really uninspired. I mean the warehouse was fine, but when they were doing those shots in the Ritzy high society settings, why did they have to shoot cramped smoke filled artless walls? If I missed the symbolism, fine I get it, but don't do it at the cost of the eye.
Rating: 7

Script: This, I knew would have a couple Oscar worthy moments. I really found this lacking too. Yes, there's some real amazing moments but not more than two or three. It's like Philip carried the whole movie. That's sad. For this category, good not great.
Rating: 7

Plot: The story was thin my friends. You know what? Truman Capote was not that interesting a guy. There I said it. I like the end, I like the climactic character arc where Capote just flat out says, "I'm here for one reason only. Tell me about that night." the last conversation as well was quite intriguing, but the whole way through I found the movie boring... and too long.
Rating: 6

Mood: The era was well captured, but they did nothing to fill us with anything but Capote, Capote, Capote, and they didn't even really get too into his personal life, like they should have. There's more to a man's story than HIM. This just goes to show you that one category alone will not carry any film. Yeah right, watch this get an Oscar in spite of what I just said.
Rating: 7

"Wait, wait... let me indulge the fantasy... hooooot murderer sex...."

Overall Rating: 72% (Kaputey?)

Aftertaste: I knew it. The night before I saw this I said to others, "Now you can't set your expectations too high, it's not going to be terrific." I knew the acting would be Oscar worthy and the story would be rather common. I figured the writing would be good and the look would be passable as era without too much flash. I must say though, disappointing even with lowered expectations. Lowest Common Denominator wins again. Not daring enough for me, not nearly as telling as I had hoped. "Fine" is not what I want to see when I see movies. I've seen enough of those, let me tell you.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Howl's Moving Castle (2004)

Baba Yaga got nuthin on this hut!

Genre: Animé Fantasy Sci-Fi Adventure Romance Drama (Japan)

Starring: Chieko Baisho, Takuya Kimura (Love and Honor; 2046)

Directed By: Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke; Spirited Away)

Overview: In a land torn up by war, a young girl gets caught up in the lives of feuding sorcerers. Searching for a cure to her curse, she seeks out Howl's moving castle to meet the mage within, and have the spell lifted.

Acting: Great! I think the voices are totally cute for Calcifer and the kid. I listened to it in the original language, but I read that Christian Bale does the voice of Howl in the dubbed version. This was during his physical transition from his role as The Machinist to that in Batman Begins, while he was beefing up. Do yourself a favour and always watch Anime in the original language if you can. As in Grave of The Fireflies, you do not want to miss the raw energy and subtle nuances of these voices.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: The mix of computer animation with the classic style is a nice touch. Like as in Steamboy, you can see the leaps and bounds being made in this medium, and to know that they aren't content just leaving well enough alone is a nice statement on the future of Animé. With 3D effects, lens flares and outright GCI, this is a spectacle to enjoy.
Rating: 8

Script: The characters were all very distinct and an enjoyment to explore, especially Calcifer and the Witch of the Waste. The story was full of good honest humanity, and though we didn't explore the vast world they inhabited, the more personal approach made for a more touching film.
Rating: 7

Plot: The story itself is fun to follow. A woman is cursed to be 90 years old, and she can't tell anyone either. In hopes she becomes Howl's maid, learning about him, and the mystical world that he lives in. The ending was way too abrupt, concluding itself inside of 10 minutes, but resolved enough things to leave you happy without it being all too cliché. Without all the supporting roles this film would not be as cool as it is.
Rating: 8

Mood: The mystical feel of this is incredible. Merge Steampunk Sci-Fi with fantasy magic, throw in war and a mystical haven with strange creatures. This is good because it's light. It doesn't have all this heavy important social commentary. I laughed a lot at how cute everything was, and as mood goes, I believed every minute.
Rating: 9

"So... weak... Old... lady... will have to ... do...Hop on!"

Overall Rating: 80% (Very Moving Indeed!)

Aftertaste: This was terrific. Mental note: Whenever Animé comes out in North American theaters it is at worst entertaining, and at best, incredibly inspiring. With the way animation is going, its technology is only going to get better. Totally fun weekend movie. Calcifer and Turnip, honestly, make half the film.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005)

Seriously, what up with all the rugby stripes?
Genre: Comedy Drama (Canada)
Starring: Michel Côté (Evil Words; Omerta), Marc-André Grondin

Directed By: Jean-Marc Vallée

Overview: This is a coming of age story about Zachary Bealieu, a young boy with a unique personality and the trials and tribulations of his life and that of his family's in Quebec during the late 60s and early 70s.

Acting: The entire cast, particularly the oldest brother, mom and especially dad all astounded me. You know when a nice honest family drama has appropriate characters that don't overdo it and act all hammy, while still having some brilliantly directed Oscar moments? No? Then watch this. You'll love everyone in it.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: The cinematography was standard fare, with a few good effect here and there. Normally I would give it a standard rating, but as I watched this, I thought how great this was at being commonplace and everyday. The fact that they didn't get all artsy actually helped the feel of the film, so for that, I'm bumping it up, for being appropriate.
Rating: 8

Script: The writing was really honest and terrific entertaining. You'll really feel as though the ideas are familiar without all having been done before. Original content with a great mix of emotions throughout the film that's smart and thoughtful, this screenwriter has nothing to fear for his career. You'll be pleased that you saw this. The translation was terrific too.
Rating: 9

Plot: The best part of this is that the whole family is involved. Sure there's focus on our little Zac, but there's appropriate focus on the family he spent most of his life WITH, see? The story is great because it's deep in its telling. There's no big point at the end that we're waiting to get to (I've been watching a lot of Thrillers lately so this is a refreshing change). From his youth, to his teens to his burgeoning adulthood, to a nice dramatic climax and a great little denouement, this is really top quality stuff.
Rating: 9

Mood: The music! Jefferson Airplane, Pink Floyd, David Bowie. All the best songs of the era. As for the costumes, cars and the visuals, my guest commented that "it doesn't look like it was set in the 70s, it looks like it was shot there." I think that explains it clearly enough. As for me, Quebec being my childhood culture, I bump it up by one because watching this is like visiting my cousins. Really immersive. I now know what it's like to grow up in a house full of brothers.
Rating: 9

"Who's the The Patsy!?"

Overall Rating: 88% (It's Insane How Good This Film Is!)

Aftertaste: This is the Canadian Oscar pick this year, just FYI, and it's no wonder. Imagine winning two foreign film awards at the Oscars two years in a row? That would be interesting. I will recommend this to anyone and everyone who asks, but I will keep the title a secret till the very end too. Nice touch.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Layer Cake (2004)

'Ow about this? You do what I say today, and tomorrow when I'm Bond I won't kill you in the opening scene.

Genre: Crime Drama Thriller (UK)

Starring: Daniel Craig (The Jacket; Casino Royale), Colm Meany (Die Hard II; Far and Away)

Directed By: James Foley

Overview: Our hero plans on getting out of the cocaine business now that he's ahead. With Bosnians hunting for his head and British Old Guard Hoods threatening to do the same, that plan is going to be a hard one to accomplish.

Acting: The entire cast from the mains to the Duke, from the no-good small time end users to the Old School Crime Syndicate Bosses, every one of these players have crime on the brain, in their blood and oozing out of their pores. Very immersive roles and direction. Kudos to you!
Rating: 9

Cinematography: The look was just as hip as the rest of the film. The sets and locations were top-drawer and it was a spectacle to watch. These guys are pros and know how to make a film pretty, and pretty cool too.
Rating: 8

Script: "Fucking females is for poofs."

Cracked us all up, given that it was a gay man saying it. Think Snatch, but serious. There's funny little moments, but after all is said and done Gangster Drama is the genre. The writing is brilliant and full of hip little quips. You'll appreciate it and be aware after the fact that writing helped make this great.
Rating: 8

Plot: This you will appreciate. Like the title suggests this is a megaploy of multiple plays that spin and entwine one another into a tale needing no icing, but they definitely put some nice cherries on top. A great story with perfectly meshed subplots. Terrific. And that ending!
Rating: 8

Mood: Think of who created this: the guys from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. It's like British Crime Drama on steroids. If you liked those you'll like this. It's that simple. It's hip, it's cool (as if I haven't said that enough times) and it's super intelligent. The mood was so good that I bought a key of Coke and I'm cutting it with baby laxative as we speak. What a sweet life I'm going to lead.
Rating: 8

"So I guess we need a plan B?"

Overall Rating: 82% (Très Sweet!)

Aftertaste: The group I was with, myself included were all a little hyper that night and frankly we probably were more in a Snatch mood, but you know it was a perfect little film between the terrible evening tasks of dinner and drinks with old friends. You'll like this, I can't see how you wouldn't. Real fun.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Paranoia: 1.0 (2004)

Step 1 to making 'instant thriller': add 1 bucket of cold sweat

Genre: Sci-Fi Mystery Horror Thriller Drama (USA, Romania, Iceland)

Starring: Jeremy Sisto ("Six Feet Under"; May), Deborah Kara Unger (Silent Hill; White Noise)

Directed By: Jeff Renfroe (Civic Duty), Marteinn Thorsson

Overview: A computer programmer begins receiving unknown packages in his apartment. Stranger things continue to haunt him as a disease seems to spread throughout his building.

Acting: I wouldn't call the cast B grade, but they aren't Hollywood's most recognized. Jeremy (above) played the crazy brother in "Six Feet Under", Deborah (below) has also been in Crash. I think this cast is in the zone where they still make film because they have something to prove. They can still go somewhere and make something big out of themselves. These roles were important to them, and though the direction led them to strange places, that was the point and they all acted very well, especially the weird tertiary bit characters.
Rating: 9

Cinematography: Every single scene a work of art. From costume to lens filters and camera angles, from colour coordination and scene scouting, the future is made bleak, but it's great to look at. The art director should be proud. A spectacle for the eyes. Without a doubt, a perfect vision.
Rating: 10

Script: The talk of the characters was well done and perfectly quirky. This is one of those 'wait to spring everything on you till the end' thrillers, so there's actually a lot of visual without too much talk, meaning that when there's talk it's pretty heavy stuff, or filled with clues. I found it enjoyable enough.
Rating: 7

Plot: Sadly, such great suffering lies in this category that I can't hope to give it praise for being decent. As I have recently said about thrillers they often wait too long to give you answers to things. Sometimes it's just not about the trip but piling everything up till the end. Do you know anyone who's favorite theme is Thriller? If you do, let me know, because I don't. The plot itself was thin.
Though not unbelievable, the story needed more meat, maybe more clues, more character development, even if it meant giving too much away for the grand climax. Just know that I score poorly for lack of, rather than stupidity of.

Rating: 4

Mood: I'll give it to you big time. Constant, ever present, everything in this is creepy, while still having the future as a well grounded and believable place. Their little corner of the world is one where such potential ended up unfulfilled and laid to waste. Every character is a touch of dark corruption, and throughout the entire film you're there, haunted with the knowledge that the cynical futurist predictions, a la Philip K. Dick may just come true, regardless of everyone's efforts. If the look and feel of a movie is all that matters to you, this is ffor you.
Rating: 10

Step 2 to making 'instant thriller': Feed your cast plenty of 'ludes.

Overall Rating: 80% (Could Use A Plot Upgrade, But Awesome Graphics)

Aftertaste: Never heard of this one. Saw it available on TMN On Demand and dove right in. I think I know why this didn't make it big. It was too specific, too obscure, and without any real plot to drive it. Sometimes it's great to 'get it', but it still left me wanting, like Broken Flowers did. I liked what they did with what they had. I just wish they'd had a little more. After all is said and done, it's nice to have films that are two steps outside of the Five Act Plot box. Very hard one to recommend, but glad I saw it.

They Came Back (2004)

Zombies in old man slacks, now there's entertainment!

Genre: Zombie Drama Fantasy Sci-Fi (France)

Starring: Geraldine Pailhas, Jonathan Zaccaï (The Beat That My Heart Skipped)

Directed By: Robin Campillo

Overview: When the recently deceased come back to life, healthy and human, a town in France tried to reintegrate these slightly different people back into society, while still trying to understand their mysteries.

Acting: The roles were decent, the dead creeped me out just enough, the players did their jobs. I have no problem with them. Nothing spectacular, however, because I couldn't get past how they weren't adressing anything!
Rating: 7

Cinematography: The overall look of the film was professional and there were a few interesting scenes with the heat-sensitive video system they had all set up. Again however, nothing spectacular. Professional. We'll leave it at that.
Rating: 7

Script: The moments where the city council held their meetings and explained things to us were terrifically done. While being apprehentious and cautious, they were hopeful, and explored all sides of their dilema. Very logical and informative in their approach we felt as lost as they were. The interpersonal stuff? Boring, uninteresting and it not do all that much to enlighten us. In fact it seemed as though they were intentionally being vague, like a thriller would, EXCEPT THEY DIDN'T TELL US ANYTHING IN THE END. Terrible!
Rating: 6

Plot: "They came back!" *SHRIEK!* If this had happened in New York City, utter chaos would have broken out, people running around with shotguns in the streets, blasting perfectly healthy shambling non-corpses. After a couple of weeks of rioting, the 'Revenants' would have eventually been reintroduced to society, harmless as they are. I think that would have been a better social commentary on humanity than the 'small French town' approach. What a slow movie. It was trying to be High Art Drama, but I didn't get the point. And to not explain the 'why' of the ending made my face pucker like I ate a rancid lemon.
Rating: 4

Mood: They should have kept the French title The Revenants, because it's an English word too: one that returns after death or a long absence. More appropriate, definately. There was constant flurry of little decisions like these that changed the direction of the story and left way too many questions unanswered. I was left wanting, wondering where, why, and what was going on. It's hard to get into a film when you're not even on the radar. The classic retort of the Eurotrash Elite would be to say that I'm uncultured, I'm not a European. I say think of your audience. You're making a film for THEM not for YOU. They, being me, hated it.
Rating: 5

Even the zombie humping isn't hot... or horofic... or mildly shambly... it's just kinda... lazy... and there's no kind of eating of any sort, if you get my drift...

Overall Rating: 56% (They Never Should Have Left)

Aftertaste: Stupidest zombie movie ever. They're not even rotting. It starts with a suspension of disbelief so grand that 30 minutes into it I decided to finally give in to the rediculous premise. Sadly, my thoughts went on to different questions. What about disease? What about people creamated? What about criminals who died with terms still left to serve? The question the writer asked was, "Oh cool how would it affect this little town? I'm so original and witty." Well stop frustrating us you moron and answer the first five questions that come to mind. Mention the outside world. Stop pissing off your viewers with your blunted and microcosmic vision.

You offend me sir.